This page is for anyone who looks after older people.
Our energy and nutrition requirements change as we age. This likely contributes to the half of older men and women living in institutions, such as care homes, being overweight or obese. Despite this, 1 in 3 older people in residential care are at risk of malnutrition (NICE, 2018).
Malnutrition is of particular concern amongst older people. Such malnutrition can be a result of the body's reduced ability to break down certain nutrients as we age. It can also be a result of appetite changes, as well as functional impairments that increase with age. For example, Dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, may be an important predictor of malnutrition progression in older people (read more about this here).
Being malnourished leads to a reduced ability to fight infections, increasing pneumonia and sepsis risk. Malnutrition slows down the healing of wounds and increases the risk of pressure sores and ulcers. Hypothermia risk is also increased in malnourished individuals. Malnutrition can decrease mobility and increase frailty through its effect on muscle density. The heart, also being a muscle, is therefore also put under greater strain in individuals who are malnourished.
Older adults are also particularly vulnerable to dehydration, again highlighting the importance of providing adequate nutrition and fluid intakes in this population group. This group are also in particular need of nutrients to keep their bone health at its optimum level; older adults require a varied and balanced diet in order to increase their life quality as well as overall health.*
OLDER PEOPLE AND OLDER PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
Identify dishes which are halal, kosher, vegetarian and vegan to ensure that nutritionally balanced menus are provided for those with cultural dietary requirements
Cater easily for those who are gluten-free or lactose intolerant, as well as those with specific food allergies
Label and filter foods by their texture to create menus suitable for older people with Dysphagia and other swallowing difficulties who require a texture-specific diet. Ensure these individuals still receive adequate nutrition
Ensure that those requiring inclusion or exclusion of certain foods still receive a nutritionally balanced menu
*The information displayed on this page has been taken from NICE guidelines and NICE supported research